Vitamin B-9, also known as folate(Folic Acid), is a water-soluble essential B vitamin .
The name folate comes from the Latin word folium meaning ‘leaf’ since it is found in many leafy plants. The best dietary sources of folate are green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit juices, and legumes .
Folates occur in many chemical forms. They are naturally found in food and the body in the form of metabolically active tetrahydrofolate derivatives methyltetrahydrofolate .
In contrast, folic acid, the synthetic form of Vitamin B-9, has no physiological activity unless converted into folates. This primarily occurs in the liver, where folic acid is converted to tetrahydrofolate using the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase .
5-methyltetrahydrofolate , the main circulating form of folate, has many essential roles in the body including nucleic acid and amino acid biosynthesis, amino acid conversions, DNA/RNA replication and methylation, as well as functioning as a cofactor in certain biological reactions .
Folate(Folic Acid) plays a critical role in cell growth during the embryonic phase of fetal development .
Low folate levels in pregnant women are linked to fetal abnormalities, such as neural tube defects (i.e., spina bifida and anencephaly).
Many clinical studies show that when women take folic acid before conception, the risk of neural tube defects is significantly reduced (up to 50-60%).
Other studies have found that when taken with a multivitamin supplement, folic acid can minimize the risk of congenital heart defects, cleft lips, and other abnormalities during the preconception period
Folic acid supplementation can also lengthen mean gestational age (period of pregnancy), increase birth weight, and lower the rate of preterm labor in pregnant women
Folic acid is needed for the proper development of the human body. It is involved in producing the genetic material called DNA and in numerous other bodily functions.
- Serious kidney disease. About 85% of people with serious kidney disease have high levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease and stroke. Taking folic acid lowers homocysteine levels in people with serious kidney disease. However, folic acid supplementation does not appear to reduce the risk of heart disease-related events.
- High amounts of homocysteine in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia). High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease and stroke. Taking folic acid lowers homocysteine levels by 20% to 30% in people with normal to slightly elevated homocysteine levels. It is recommended that people with homocysteine levels greater than 11 micromoles/L supplement with folic acid and vitamin B-12.
- Reducing harmful effects of a medicine called methotrexate. Taking folic acid seems to reduce nausea and vomiting, which are possible side effects of methotrexate treatment.
- Birth defects (neural tube defects). Folic acid during pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube birth defects. It is recommended that pregnant women get 600-800 mcg of folic acid per day from their diet or supplements starting 1 month before pregnancy and during pregnancy. Pregnant women with a history of neural tube birth defects are advised to get 4000 mcg of folic acid per day.
Folic acid and folate are water-soluble forms of vitamin B-9 that is naturally found in many of the foods we eat. Folate occurs naturally in food while folic acid is the man-made form of this important vitamin. Common dietary sources of folate include
- green leafy vegetables,
- fruits and fruit juices,
- dairy products,
- beef kidney, and
- beef liver.
Additionally, folic acid is added to many food products (fortified) and is available as a dietary supplement.